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The Luxe List: Top 20 Brands Millennials Think Are Luxury

We asked Millennials and teens to tell us the brands they think make luxury products, and then which brands they think make quality products.

Affluent Millennials exist, and this growing segment is predicted to become the dominant group in the luxury consumer market (those who make $100,000 or more annually) between 2018 and 2020. At the same time, older Millennials are starting to splurge a bit more. According to recent data, consumers 27-35-years-old began spending twice as much as 18-26-year-olds in 2015, when the two groups had spent equally in 2014. We’ve explored what the highest earning Millennials are spending on, but as more Millennials age into higher earning brackets, another question arises: what brands do they think are luxury?

We asked 1000 13-32-year-olds to answer the question, “What brands do you think make luxury products?” and found out their top 20 luxe list*:

As with so many other brand-perception lists we’ve created, Apple is at the top of the luxury heap. (We’ll explore a bit more about that later.)

But another product category stands out when looking at the top 20: car brands make up nearly half the list. When Millennials hear the word “luxury” many think immediately of high-end auto makers. That could be a (gilded) double edged sword. 

As we explored in our trend report last year, the definition of luxury has blurred for the generation: Luxury can mean rarity, convenience, ease of access, material sourcing—all separate from that age-old notion of expense and pretense. At the same time, the meaning behind even the word “luxury” have shifted for many of them, and it might not resonate in the same way it did for previous generations. In a post-recession world, it can have an unattainable and almost embarrassing connotation. We surveyed young consumers to find out how positively and negetively they feel about products that are considered to be cheap, exclusive, luxury, environmentally friendly, economical, high quality, and durable. Here’s what we found out:  

“Luxury,” “exclusive,” and “cheap” are all ranked lower on Millennials’ positivity scale, showing a devalued association with traditional luxury terms. Meanwhile, practical and emotional factors like durable and high quality were rated highly. With that in mind, we asked them to tell us the brands that they feel make products that are higher quality than their competitors*. Here are their top 20 responses:

The top 20 list shifts significantly when looking at quality versus luxury. Apple is still on top, and in fact received even more reponses, indicating that young consumers see the brand as even more quality than they do as luxury. But more tech brands (Google, Microsoft, Sony, Dell, and Amazon) have joined. The fact that these brands were missing from the luxury list tells us that Apple, and Samsung to a lesser extent, occupies a unique spot in the market: it’s one of the few tech brands that is seen as both high quality and aspirational. 

Meanwhile, many of those high-end car brands that dominated the luxe list have dissappeared (save BMW), and Toyota instead makes the new list. Those brands might want to consider their positioning: though Millennials see them as luxury, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be lining up to buy. With the new generation of affluent consumers, being seen as quality is even more important. 

*These were open-end response questions to allow us to capture the full range of brands they see as luxury and quality. As with any qualitative question, the responses include those that are top of mind, and those that are actually viewed in that light.